Black Advertising Professionals Who Penned Open Letter Find an Ally in 4A’s

Signatories have formed a nonprofit named 600 & Rising that the trade body will support

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Last week, more than 600 Black advertising professionals signed an open letter demanding urgent action from agency leadership regarding system racism in the industry. 

In the days since the letter became public, its primary organizers have channeled their momentum into a nonprofit named 600 & Rising and secured a partnership with the 4A’s.

Periscope group strategy director Nathan Young teamed up with Bennett D. Bennett, principal and content lead at Aerialist, to spearhead the letter’s creation. Now, the two will run 600 & Rising, which they described as “the first organization solely dedicated to the advocacy and advancement of Black advertising employees” in a statement. 

Young will serve as president, while Bennett will take on the role of vice president-partnerships. The organization currently has 1,100 members. Through its partnership with the 4A’s, the newly formed organization plans to work alongside the trade body to advise agencies on what steps need to be taken to address systemic racism in the advertising industry.

“The 4A’s has always been committed to supporting our agency members, and now we are doing so in a way that empowers the very people who need our support the most,” Marla Kaplowitz, president and CEO of the 4A’s, said in a statement. “There is a lot of work to be done, and we are readily leveraging our platform to continue partnering with agency leaders and with the members of 600 & Rising in making their critical work a reality.” 

According to 600 & Rising and the 4A’s, they’ve already sent out a survey to Black advertising professionals that has generated insights on how to move forward, and are working on a methodology to standardize reporting on diversity data. They’ve also set a 90-day timetable for enacting diversity and inclusion reforms across the industry.

The tie-up with the 4A’s is 600 & Rising’s first official partnership. Moving forward, 600 & Rising plans to leverage its membership to help create more effective diversity, equity and inclusion policies.

“What we’ve heard from our members is that, as individuals, they don’t feel like they have a voice,” Young said in a statement. “This organization has been designed from the ground up to amplify Black voices and ensure that collectively, we get the resources and recognition that have been denied to our members for far too long.”

The letter signed last week lists 12 steps that agency leadership can take “to address the systemic racism that is afflicting our industry.” Each step includes a particular action, or series of actions, that agency executives can take if they’re serious about change.

For instance, leaders are asked to “make a specific, measurable and public commitment to improve Black representation at all levels of agency staffing,” particularly senior and leadership positions. 

Another demands that leaders “expand residencies and internship programs to candidates with transferable skills who may not have taken a traditional educational path toward advertising.” The full letter can be read here.

In the week since the letter came out, IPG has shared how many Black, Asian and Hispanic people work in its executive ranks across the U.S., while experiential agency Giant Spoon also revealed the gender and ethnic makeup of its staff.

@Minda_Smiley Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.